STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State softball Head Coach Vann Stuedeman, assistant coach Alan Reach, assistant coach Beth Mullins and the players spoke to reporters for over an hour Friday afternoon inside the Palmeiro Center as part of MSU softball's annual media day. Below is the transcript.
Head Coach Vann Stuedeman
On this year's transfers:
"All three of them (Julia Echols, Logan Foulks & Alison Owen) have immersed themselves into our philosophies and our program. All three of them were very well connected with players on our team, so it was a pretty easy transition for them. I think probably the hardest part was getting to know the coaching staff. Being a new coaching staff, the whole team was in the same boat. Alison and Julia came just one semester after me, so we're all very eager to get them into their uniform and on the field since they've been here for a full year. Logan is full of personality and fits right in and it's like she was a long-lost sister you just instantly find and have a relationship with. The girls have accepted her and we're excited about her choosing Mississippi State."
On Logan Foulks:
"Logan fell in love with our facilities and knew some of the players, which was definitely a huge positive. She spent the fall working on her GPA and got in here in January and here we are. We were very fortunate that she was available in the summer. She's great get personality wise, academically wise and she loves Mississippi State and our players. Recruiting has a lot of luck with it; timing is everything."
On the second year:
"You have your coaching people, your inner circle, and my inner circle says year two is much harder for the coach. I've accepted that challenge and am aware and I appreciate the advice. The girls really have been just as eager. Last year there was such newness about everything. Now, it's how much can we learn and an eagerness about them to represent. The newness is still there - everybody is working very hard, there's still a lot of newness and excitement around the program. I think they're very excited about year two."
On the goal in 2013:
"The whole objective this year has been higher expectations of yourself, your support staff and everyone around you so that we can be a contender. They know that that is the coaching staff's goal. Last year at LSU, the box scores were the same for both teams, but the score is 4-0 LSU. I think that says a whole lot. They have a gorgeous stadium so they should win? It's about expecting to do well. We talk about being winners and not necessarily judging by the scoreboard. We can go home every night - we call it the pillow test - you put your head on the pillow and say, 'Did I do everything in my power to win the day?''
Building off of last April:
"Not to be cliché, but everything is a process. I tell them all the time, 'today plus-today-plus-today, equals your career.' I hope the players that are here build on last year and their knowledge base. Nothing trumps experience; even athleticism doesn't trump the experience card. The experience we built last year and the relationship building, I would hope would remain with them. They started at one place and they learned a lot; now they're starting from a higher level and they continue to do that. I hope it does carry on into the new season."
On what fans should expect:
"We are fast. Last year, we were 22nd in the country in stolen bases per game. Before I got here, they were in the 40's in total stolen bases and we jumped to 98 with basically the same personnel. This year, we did not lose speed and added two very fast freshmen as well as a redshirt from last year who's a sophomore who also has a lot of speed. Speed never slumps. I think we're going to create some chaos on the bases with that. Hopefully we can get on base or if they're not getting on base we can pinch run with runners that can get on base and be fast. I'm excited about that. I think it'll be fun for the fans to be able to see us running and taking extra bases."
"Assistant Coach Alan Reach talks about the goal of the hitter is to cross the dish as much as you can. We lost Brittany Bell and Ka'ili Smith, and they were both in the top-10 in the SEC in batting average. We need a couple of people to step up to fill those holes. We want to get those kids in scoring position and score when they're there. Last year, we would hit when there was no one in scoring position. Hopefully we'll put a big emphasis on improving that. Now, we're focusing on crossing the dish as much as we can and hit when it matters the most. We need some kids to step up."
"We've added Alison Owen in the circle and we improved all of our defensive and pitching numbers from last year. We also have a freshman, Jacey Punches, so we'll also have some highlights in the circle. You'll see the return of Sam Lenahan behind the plate who was incredible her freshman year. She took one for the team and did what was best and played third base last year. It's promising on paper so we'll see what we can do with it. We've got to earn it."
On her work with the pitching staff:
"I wanted them to know how incredible they were and how good they were. I wanted to teach them that we were going to utilize a staff mentality. When I played, you could go around the country and name one dominant pitcher on each team and the scores were 1-0. We all came up with about seven around the country that are dominant pitchers and the starter plays the whole game. Seven, that's all? We're going to a baseball mentality with a starter, a closer and a middle reliever. We did that last year. We talked about the staff mentality and how each person sets the other one up for success. I wanted to create a culture of confidence and a culture of a staff.
In the bullpen, I wanted them to have an attitude that they can fail and it be ok because I wanted them to try out lots of thing that work for them instead of being in a cookie cutter type of pitching. They've experimented with a lot of ideas and we've tried to pick what works for each different one to make them better. I think it was them just buying into the staff philosophy and their willingness to experiment and learn and grow. It's been incredible to work with them.
We added Alison Owen and a freshman (Punches). We lost two and added two so I feel good about the depth. We have three starters that can go in at anytime and all three of them are very competitive and want the ball and want to take on the staff mentality. That will help Jacey Punches get her feet wet in the league. I wish it was like football where they can come in and take that redshirt year. But I think we have some depth in the circle for sure."
Assistant Coach Alan Reach
On Jessica Cooley's progression:
"I think she's never satisfied, so she's continued to improve. One of the areas that she's really grown is her leadership and keeping everybody's boat in the same direction and keep steering. The year before we got here, she hit one home run, and last year she hit 15. Alicia Catlette, our strength coach, is a big reason why Cooley has had that success. The girls love Coach Cat and respond really well and I've just seen a physical difference in our hitters because of what she does in the weight room. Cooley's intangibles are what she's going to bring to the season this year just because from freshmen to seniors, they look to her and rely on her. She helps put out the fire before anything becomes a chemistry issue."
On transfer Logan Foulks:
"You can just kind of see who's a hitter by their body language and the way they approach batting practice and she approaches hitting with a strong mentality. She has a really good swing and experience in the ACC and experience in the SEC just playing out of conference. You can tell a lot by a hitter if they have more walks than strikeouts; if they take good pitches to hit they're going to crush. We're thrilled to have her. She's from Georgia and knows a lot of our kids. So she fits in well immediately and she's going to get in there and hit."
On the expectations of the hitters:
"Hopefully, we're scrappy. We will be fast. We'll try to really anticipate our opponents with our speed and we're going to try to put together some really solid at bats. We're not going to live and die by a three-run home run, but rather we're going to try to execute every at bat. We're going to play small ball and have some hit and run. We're going to steal, try to go from first to third, or we're going to be out trying."
On the late innings:
"The late innings are our innings. If we haven't put together some runs in the first couple of innings, our pitching staff is going to keep us in there. We would love to score in the first inning, and every inning, but our pitching staff is going to keep us in the game. So if we can play a little defense and hopefully hit a little, we're going to be okay."
On this year's team:
"There is no comparison to this year and last. When they came back this year, they were just so much more focused. Everybody was much more comfortable with each other. A year's worth of culture has been laid and it was not easy - it was hard work. I think part of establishing a culture is getting each player to strive to be a starter but then understand your role and execute your role with everything you've got. This fall has been incredible and so much smoother than last fall."
Assistant Coach Beth Mullins
On the start of the year:
"I can't believe we're three weeks away. Everything has gone really well. I think obviously having the Palmeiro Center has been a blessing to have at Mississippi State. So we've been able to have a great four days of practice. I think the girls are excited and they've worked their tails off. They're working out at 6:30 in the morning and it's unbelievable. If you could have seen the progression in the fall till now, it's unbelievable. The work ethic they're putting in now with Coach Cat, the conditioning is going to make the late season our season. At the end of the game, I think the strength and conditioning is going to be what gets us there."
Stephanie Becker - Sr. - LHP
On the upcoming season:
"We're really excited. We have really high expectations for this year so we're just ready to get going. Every year we all just try to give our best, but it is in my mind that this is my last year so I want to give even more and try to make this my best year."
On team chemistry:
"We all work together really well. We kind of build off of each other and if I learn something new and I learn something about a hitter, I share it. I think that's how we got into a groove last year. It was really great that (Head Coach) Vann Stuedeman was able to keep working with us and we kept working throughout the season."
On the influence of Vann Stuedeman as a pitching coach:
"I feel like I've improved greatly and I know all the other pitchers have improved as well because of Vann. She's an awesome coach and she's helped us all improve on our game. She's done a really great job with us specializing our pitches and working on our spin. She's really awesome."
On the pitching staff:
"We have a really deep pitching staff. We build off each other and none of us could do what we do without the other. Kylie (Vry) is a senior this year also and I'm excited to spend my last year pitching with her. Vann gave us some new drills to work on so we're just trying to polish things up for next season."
The mindset difference this year:
"It was a big change when the current staff arrived and they set really high expectations for us, which is great. We worked all last year trying to get on the same page and I feel like this year was a much easier transition. All of us knew what to expect and now we're ready for this season. We all worked really hard in the fall and I feel like this spring is going to be a really good season. It was a lot different last year because everyone is a new player. This year, we have all the other players helping coach the new players so the coaches don't have to coach each one of us. I think that's probably been easier for the coaches too, having us help them."
On the transfers:
"They're going to be great impacts on our team. Alison Owen worked really hard with us last year and I think she's going to be awesome for us this year. They're all really hard players and work hard all practice and during all of the workouts. They're great additions to our team and I think they're only going to help us improve."
Jessica Cooley - Sr. - OF
On offensive expectations:
"Coach Mullins and Coach Reach do an awesome job with our offense. They have us practicing every day and working on our fundamentals and we really set high expectations for this year. Our goal is to score as many runs as possible. We're really excited; I think it's going to be an awesome year for us."
On the team chemistry:
"I think we have an awesome group of girls. Logan (Foulks) transferred in and I think she's going to be a big help for us. With everybody coming back and a year of experience with the coaches, I think everybody is just going to be able to step up and just do what they need to do. There's no selfish person on this team; you truly want the other person to succeed. Everybody is doing a great job and giving 100 percent, so all around I think that anybody at any given moment can step up and do the job."
On keeping a momentum from last April:
"Vann and our coaches have done a great job with us and keeping us hungry. We've set such high expectations this year. Coming out to practice, that keeps us hungry and keeps us motivated. We all know each other very well, so it's really cool to have anybody at any given moment motivate you and that's why I think we'll keep that hunger going like we did last April."
On meeting goals: amerced
"I am so excited. The past years have been the best teams I've been a part of. We're going to take it day-by-day. You can't reach those goals unless you meet your goals every day. We've set really high expectations to keep the energy going and keep the motivation. We really are excited to get the fans out and let them see what we've been working so hard on all year."
On the strength program:
"Coach Cat is awesome. She played softball in college, so it's really good to have a strength coach who has been where she's been and she really works hard on keeping things new and not doing things over and over again. As an athlete, that's so nice when you're never bored. She does a great job at getting us in shape and really working the muscles we need to work. All around, I think everyone has improved drastically on our strength and it's all about feeling comfortable. So Coach Cat has done a great job and we all feel like we're in great shape to play and last throughout the season. It's in April and June when you want to be in the best shape and she does an awesome job with that and so does our coaches."
Erin Nesbit - RJr. - SS
On the differences from the beginning of last year to now:
"There's a huge difference. You can ask the fans that were here a couple of years ago; they didn't see the competitive nature that we have now. All of our coaches have stepped up our expectations for this team. We take it one game at a time and we give it our all. She (Head Coach Vann Stuedeman) stepped our expectations up."
On the freshmen:
"As far as our freshmen go, they are quick. We have some quick girls on the team that were already here, but there's definitely a difference on the base paths this year. We're going to be moving a lot of runners."
On being close last season:
"We were right there. In a way, everyone sees that we proved ourselves. Honestly, we were disappointed because the team knew that we could have done so much better last year. There's no other team out there that'd I'd rather play with. I just saw the heart of the team and we've changed so much across the board. The competitive nature is so ridiculous and if you come out to a game this year it's going to be insane with the fighters on the field that you'll see."
On the transfer's impact:
"Each of them brings something completely different to the table, but overall they are scrappy, they are competitive and they fire each other up and they fire us up. The good thing is that Logan (Foulks) just arrived here but it feels like she's been here forever because we're all on the same page. And she has a bat - she's going to bring some power to the team. Julia (Echols) is super scrappy. She's diving every play. Everyone just sort of took them up. They were here a week and they felt like they've been playing with us forever. The team has been really good about embracing each other and getting everyone on the same page because if you don't do that, you're not going to win."
On being one of three sisters that have played for MSU:
"At first, I didn't want to come here. After my sister (Courtney Nesbit) signed and committed I said no, I want to make my own name. I liked Mississippi State but I just wanted to go somewhere else and make my own name. But after I got here, I just fell in love with it and then my little sister got recruited and my parents couldn't be happier. I just got to keep that Nesbit name going. People call it a dynasty, I don't know about that. Mississippi State must like recruiting sisters; we've got the Bailey sisters and the Bell sisters as well."
Logan Foulks - Jr. - INF
On coming to MSU:
"I know that my team is going to back me no matter what, so I have a great team I'm coming into. I feel so welcomed and the coaching staff is phenomenal."
On comparisons to home:
"Mississippi State is definitely like a place where I grew up. Growing up in Douglasville, Georgia, you come in and you see ponds and pastures and lakes, and I fell in love before I ever saw the campus. But also the team, they're awesome. I can't get enough of it, so it's good to be here."
On Head Coach Vann Stuedeman:
"I love her enthusiasm and excitement for every player individually and for the team. Everything she does is 110 percent and she's always enthused at everything she does from tying her shoes to winning the World Series. I love that and the whole team feeds off of that. I know I do."